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Leadership of the 15th Ward on the southwest side was basically up for grabs in the February 2007 aldermanic election. The incumbent, Ted Thomas, decided to retire due to health reasons. Among those vying to take over his seat was former Jewel food store

Leadership of the 15th Ward on the southwest side was basically up for grabs in the February 2007 aldermanic election.

The incumbent, Ted Thomas, decided to retire due to health reasons.

Among those vying to take over his seat was former Jewel food store baker and 36-year West Englewood resident Toni Foulkes.

She successfully accomplished that task during the April 2007 runoff election.

The diverse 15th Ward, led by Thomas for eight years, borders the 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th Wards, and includes portions of Chicago Lawn, West Englewood and West Lawn.

“Our diversity mirrors Hyde Park, except we don’t have the money they have. The ward’s ethnic makeup is Black, Hispanic, Polish and Lithuanian,” Foulkes told the Defender during a recent ride-along through the ward.

Foulkes’ first few months in office were spent fielding residents’ requests for speed bumps, improved street lighting and just basic cleanliness of the ward.

“When I call with a request about things needing to be done about the lights being out, or the trees needing to be trimmed, she always answers. The former alderman was the same way, so I hope she continues being available,” resident Leeora Thomas said.

The alderman is currently working on maintaining the “family” pride the community has taken in various parts of the ward, hoping it will spread to those areas that need additional attention.

“The residents help out a great deal because I can’t be everywhere all the time. They are my eyes and ears. They care about the community just as much as I do. I could not have done it so far without them,” Foulkes said.

While her constituents “keep the yards clean and beautiful,” Foulkes said that has not kept the foreclosure beast out of her ward, or shed the crime-riddled image that West Englewood has endured for the last few decades.

“Last year, we had about 230 foreclosures in West Englewood alone. That’s too many,” she said, adding that during her quarterly community resource meetings, information is available about avoiding the pitfalls of foreclosure.

West Englewood has its share of drugs, gangs and prostitution, and that’s all that is ever portrayed in the media, said Foulkes. There are many residents who care about their neighborhood and are doing all they can to make it better. That is not shown in the media, Foulkes said.

“Where we live and what you see on the TV is different,” she said.

One resident, who prefers to remain anonymous, agreed with Foulkes about the rampant crime but said the alderman could step up her efforts.

“The vacant lots need to be looked after more. When a few of the residents clean them up, the drug dealers and users come back to mess it up. We need for the alderman to watch it more closely and try to get some fences put around the lots once the trash is removed. If I can see that that’s what needs to happen, I’m sure she sees that too,” the resident said.

As major residential and commercial development is being courted for other wards, Foulkes said she doesn’t have much land available for big projects. She only has small chunks of land ready for development.

Developments on her wish list include a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Culver’s hamburger and custard restaurant.

Foulkes said she thinks she’s had a good first year in office and is giddy about doing more during the remainder of her term.

“I see the beauty in everything and see the glass as half full,” she said.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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